A Cochrane couple got a rude awakening to the financial dangers of technology recently, when they discovered to their dismay that an online billing device they used to sell their artwork at a Bragg Creek market in November wasn’t actually collecting money as it should have been.
Now, they’re out more than $3,000, with no guarantee of recovering the outstanding receipts before Christmas – or ever.
The mix-up occurred on a device called the Square, which is a device that works with a variety of software options. It allows small businesses and vendors to collect payments at markets, on doorsteps, or wherever they conduct their business.
One of the benefits, according to the Square website, is it allows customers to “tap and go” in an efficient manner, which speeds things up for busy retailers.
Unfortunately for Allen and Judy Kalas of True North Stain Glass Design, many were gone without actually paying at the Nov. 18 to 20 Christmas in the Creek Market at the community centre in Bragg Creek, where they sold some of their stained glass and fused glass art pieces.
Allen and his wife Judy have been using the Square for four years with no problems until now. Judy does all the entries, and did them the same way that weekend as she’d always done.
They were alerted something had gone wrong when she was checking the reports confirming sales and listing any customers who may have requested receipts via email or text.
At first everything looked fine. But when they tallied up the sales for the three-day event a couple of days later, that’s when they realized something was amiss.
“We were short $3,316,” Kalas said.
A phone call to the Square and a two-day wait resulted in another phone call.
“They told me my wife must’ve hit ‘cash’ but she wouldn’t do that,” Kalas said.
Four hours on the phone with Square customer service resulted in no solution.
“They said, ‘you must’ve done something wrong, it’s all your fault and we feel bad for you, but there’s nothing we can do for you’ and that was it,” he said.
Kalas said they only use the Square once a year, at the Bragg Creek Christmas market, and he’s still unsure of what went wrong.
“It’s very confusing for people like us,” he added.
They chose the Square as it offers a low commission fee, compared to some other competitors.
Five people have gotten back to them as of last week, looking to square up. But they are still out more than $3,000.
For anyone who still relies on the old-fashioned way of keeping track of credit card transactions – aka snail mail – the missing transactions wouldn’t show up for a month or so.
Karas said his wife told him they should just move on, because “it’s Christmas.” But for him, it’s a matter of principle.
“There are people out there at lot worse off than us, I know. It’s just money,” he said.
People from all over Canada have contacted them with sympathetic messages as a result of a blog post Kalas wrote about the unfortunate experience.
“People from Nova Scotia to Vancouver Island have written with support, and said they’d spread the word – there’s a lot of support that way,” he said.
“A lot of people don’t check their bank statements or credit card statements, so they may not know,” Kalas said.
Anyone noticing they haven’t actually paid for their purchases from True North Stain Glass Design at the Christmas in the Creek Market in Bragg Creek that weekend can contact the Kalas couple at [email protected].